Posted on Jun 12, 2010 in category

Wendy arrives at Le Creusot-Montchanin TGV station at 11.15 about an hour's easy drive away allowing for any traffic problems. My plan was to give breakfast a miss at the Research Centre (the cafeteria opens late on the weekend); instead, I'd search for a local market in one of the nearby villages. I drove through St Leger-sous-Beuvray and Etang-sur-Arroux without success. Hunger pains, common sense and a steady stream of customers from a local boulangerie persuaded me to drop the market idea.

Initially I bought one croissant but I weakened returning to buy another delicious pastry and to snap a photo of Madame and her daughter.

My new plan was to drive to the museum at Le Creusot, a town that is only 15 minutes' drive from the isolated TGV station. On the D80 (the French number their roads-bravo!) there are many tempting detour signs with 'Celtes voies'. This time I weakened and turned off at Mesvres. I didn't see any evidence of Celtic Gaul but I did see some old, double stone bridges surrounded by a park. A sign advertised three days of medieval festivities at the end of this month. Without warning, a Frenchman introduced himself as Eric, the fisherman. He was very proud of the park and the condition of the rivers in the area informing me that he can catch two types of trout in Le Mesvrin and in the Arroux River he catches salmon. The bridges turned out to be of medieval origin.

Cycling is a very popular pastime for all ages Eric, the piscator!!! Reaching Le Creusot, I finally found that market! It was in the carpark opposite the cafe we had visited a couple of days ago for lunch. Spanish strawberries, French apricots followed by a strong 'fromage du chevre' (goats' cheese) became my market 'menu'.

Mon ami who gave me free apricots- merci monsieur!

Wendy's TGV was spot on time. It's incredible just how fast these trains travel and how efficiently they are managed. Chalon-sur-Saone was literally our next port of call. Formerly the main river port of the Aedui tribe, it became even more important during the Gallo-Roman period as trade flourished up and down the great inland French rivers: Saone, Rhone, Seine and Loire. The Saone is an impressive river. Tourists are taken on tours in specially designed long, narrow bateaux.

The Saint Laurent Bridge in the background has its origins in Gallo-Roman days. Wooden piers tipped with iron spikes were driven into the river. How do I know this fact? We visited the Denon Museum. Here's a picture of a pier spike and model representation of its Gallo-Roman construction.

The Aedui tribe managed to control the trade along this section of the Saone in both Celtic and Gallo-Roman times. An indication of the type of barges used can be seen in the museum. Although of medieval origin this long boat carved out of a single tall tree could be one type of Saone transport.

Two types of Saone River transport vessels

The Museum is named after Vincent Denon who was instrumental in beginning the French interest in Egyptology during Napoloeon I's Egypt Campaigns and in organising many French museums including the Louvre in the Empire period. Although the Gallo-Roman section was closed for restoration one floor still revealed many treasures of Celtic and Gallo-Roman life. There was on display an interesting collection of artifacts from a Celtic village of the 4th-2nd centuries B.C. The village was excavated nearby at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs- 'Le Petit Chauvort'. Judging by the quality, variety and numerous origins of the artifacts from this site it is blantantly obvious that the Celts of Gaul were a prosperous and industrious community well before the Roman conquest.

A wine amphora imported from central Europe and the Mediterranean Sea region.

Another Iron Age Celtic site on display is Bragny. Note the iron fibulae on display

Although the Gallo-Roman section was closed there were still quite a few artifacts from this era on display. Here the craftsmanship is obvious in the handle motifs on these bronze vessels-many depict deities or allude to classical mythology.

Perseus beheading Medusa-a talisman function(warding off evil spirits)

As we were walking out of the exhibition room we nearly missed seeing the most famous exhibit in the Denon Museum- the lion attacking the gladiator. It was positioned in the foyer but was not protected in any way and had minimal signage.

Now you that you have seen this wonderful statue you must be thinking we are blind! Tonight we had a most enjoyable vegetarian meal at Joelle's house in the beautiful countryside around Mesvres. It was a great way to say goodbye to our new friend.

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